Crash Bag, Vol. 84: The Burrito Emporia of Queens
Good set of questions this week, so I’ll dive right in. First from the boys at Cespedes Family Barbecue. In my Roy Halladay tribute piece on Grantland earlier this week, I called Zoo With Roy the weirdest, most passionate blog…excuse me, “bolg”…in the history of sports, but Cespedes Family Barbecue is about 94 percent as weird as ZWR. Anyway, they sent a barrage of questions, starting with this one:
@CespedesBBQ: “if you were Domonic Brown, what team would you want to be traded to? you can’t choose the Expos”
So I’m going to interpret this question as involving the following parameters: putting my personality and tastes in Dom Brown’s body. So I’m the same person, but instead of being a married 26-year-old writer who looks like Jonathan Frakes’ slobbish nephew, I’d be a single 26-year-old baseball player who looks like an underwear model and whose salary is like mine, but with significant multiplication involved.
And because this is me being Dom Brown, and not Dom Brown being Dom Brown, this list would look different than you’d expect.
This is tough because my three favorite metro areas that I’ve been to in North America–Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, Nashville and, yes, CFBBQ, Montreal–are all devoid of MLB franchises. So let’s work the other way–which MLB cities would I not want to live in? That eliminates New York, Detroit, Tampa, Miami and anywhere in the Mountain or Pacific time zones. I’d probably rather not live in Chicago or Pittsburgh, but I could back off that stance.
Brown is also a corner outfielder best suited to hit in the middle of a lineup, so we can eliminate any team that doesn’t have a need for at least one of those: Washington, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis, Kansas City, probably Toronto (depending on how you feel about the futures of Adam Lind and Melky Cabrera), probably Boston (assuming they don’t bench Jackie Bradley and move Victorino to center)…not a prohibitive list, but I can’t imagine the Braves, for instance, moving Justin Upton or Jason Heyward to make room for Brown.
Anyway, since “trade” implies he/I/we’d leave Philadelphia, that leaves a list of the following teams that play in places I’d like to live and have a need for a player like Brown: Minnesota, Texas, Houston, Baltimore and Milwaukee. And I’ll put the Pirates back on the board, because while I detest Steelers and Penguins fans, and I hate the layout of the city and how everyone there is terrified of driving through tunnels, the Pirates are in a great spot right now, and would benefit more from a player like Brown than any other team. I’d also think about taking a flyer on the Rangers–a contending team with a need for a corner outfield bat in a state with no income tax where everyone is beautiful? Almost talked myself into that one too.
But Dom/Me would most like to go to Minnesota. I know, I know. It’s a crappy team in a cold place. But I actually rather like Minneapolis–great downtown area, decent beer, decent food in a relatively inexpensive city that doesn’t have the intense, crushing human pressure of New York or the soul-dulling sprawl of Atlanta or Los Angeles. And let me say this as well–I’ve been to a game at Target Field on the last weekend of September, and I’ve been to a day game at Turner Field in August. I’d rather be in a ballpark in the cold than the heat any day.
And that’s not the last of it. In a couple years, this Twins lineup is going to be absurd: Byron Buxton and Joe Mauer at the top of the lineup, with Miguel Sano, Oswaldo Arcia and, in this scenario, Dom/Me to drive them in. The Twins suck now, but they’ve got one of the best farm systems in the game, and in three years, with the Tigers rapidly becoming old and busted, they’re going to be very interesting in that division.
@CespedesBBQ: “Which baseballistos could you take in a fight?”
Writers? I’d be useless in a fight. I’m a fairly big guy, but I don’t have any particular strength, quickness or training. I bet I could last a while in a punchfight against Good Phight Blogista Liz Roscher, who’s mean and ruthless, and is the only baseball writer to have actually punched me before. But she’s about 3-foot-5 and 60 pounds, so if it came down to it, I could probably just pick her up and carry her to someplace where she couldn’t hurt anyone.
But a real, normal-sized person? I doubt there’s anyone I’d be able to take.
Smoak, even leaving aside my South Carolina homerism. As of right now, they’re about the same–big, clunky first basemen with limited defensive ability and a weakness for anything slow and low. Steamer says Smoak will be worth 0.8 wins next year, Howard 0.7–it’s a dead heat. In 2014, leaving money out of it, I’d have Howard, probably.
But Howard is 34, with a surgically repaired wheel. Smoak, for all the snark about him, just turned 27. He’s not a prospect anymore, obviously, but he posted an above-average wRC+ and a double-digit walk rate last year, and most importantly, there’s not as great a question about whether he’ll be able to walk without a cane by the time those five years are up.
@TyHildenbrandt: “In a standard, 10-team mixed fantasy baseball league with rotisserie scoring and an auction draft, where would RAJ finish?”
Rotisserie scoring? Standard league? So the criteria include RBI, wins, saves and so on? If Rube had his front office staff, he’d annihilate a fantasy league. If there’s one thing Amaro’s proved in his time, it’s that he can find players who generate such statistics. He’d be perfect for a 5×5 roto league–where identifying context doesn’t matter? He’d never lose. Never.
@MikeLacy_215: “To help fill the leadership void created by Michael Young‘s trade, should the Phillies consider drafting AJ McCarron?”
Yes. That’s a fantastic idea. Next.
@Arm_Side_Run: “Give the 2014 Phillies a nickname that is a pun on ‘Whiz Kids.’ “
Well, there’s one, and it’s taken. I can’t imagine that trying to re-create the Big Red Machine in 1983 actually led to a World Series. When I was in college, Pete Rose came to my school to promote his book, and he said he’d felt fortunate to have played with the best of all time at three different positions–Mike Schmidt, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench. I guess even if they’re old, Schmidt and Morgan are still Schmidt and Morgan to some extent. In fact, those two and Gary Matthews were the only players on that team to finish with an OPS+ of 100. And even with a good bullpen and Steve Carlton and the Cy Young winner John Denny…how the hell did the 1983 Phillies make the World Series anyway? That’s ridiculous.
@Shawny_Mac12: “Phillies sign Bartolo Colon, wouldn’t be surprising at his age, how much would be too much?”
Well I thought that the two-year, $20 million contract he got from the Mets was just a spectacular piece of business. I think it was Matt Winkelman who said “there goes Ruben Amaro‘s no. 3 starter for less than three years.” Because Colon is 40 years old, and only throws one pitch, and is one of three players in MLB I can think of who are both obviously shorter and fatter than I am (the other two: Prince Fielder and Pablo Sandoval), he doesn’t fit the archetype of a pitcher you’d want to give lots of money to. For those reasons and, probably more than any GM will admit on the record, because his name is particularly conducive to butthole jokes. In fact, the burrito emporia of Queens must be fizzing with promotional glee that a pitcher named “Colon” will be throwing to a catcher named “Recker.” Pour on the habaneros and rake in the dough, Tex-Mex impresarios of New York City. This one’s on me.
Anyway, you can look at Colon as an old, gross, walking poop joke, or you can look at him as a pitcher who’s been good for at least 150 innings and 2 wins in each of the past three seasons, whose skill set isn’t reliant on something that declines with age particularly quickly, and who represents the upside of last year: 190 innings, 5 wins above replacement and a sixth-place finish in the Cy Young voting. If I had a good infield defense and a powerful desire to contend, I’d give him either a third year at $10 million per or I’d pay him perhaps as much as $14 or 15 million a year over two years. That, believe it or not, is what constitutes a moderate risk on today’s free agent market.
@Moerms: “please put together the strongest possible soccer team using only Phillies from 1970 thru today”
I’m going to assume we have a time machine and the ability to compel these guys to play soccer from birth and not baseball.
- Goalie: Jayson Werth–A spindly 6-foot-5, no problem yelling at people, good ability to read the game. Might be wasting a little bit of speed here, but strength starts at the back.
- Center backs: Steve Carlton and Scott Rolen. If Rolen’s as good a soccer defender as he was a baseball defender, we’re in good shape. Carlton is 6-foot-4, had a reputation for being in better shape than any other baseball player of his generation, and is a surly sonofabitch.
- Right back: Pete Rose. A little bit of a disciplinary risk, but work rate for days. He’d have to a be a good two-way player.
- Left back: Lenny Dykstra. Like Rose, but on the other side.
- Center midfield: Chase Utley and Garry Maddox. Maddox because of the thing about covering the world. Utley because…well, just go look up Roy Keane if you’re wondering what kind of soccer player Utley would be.
- Outside midfield: Ben Revere and Bobby Abreu. Abreu presents strength, size, pace and vision coming from the wing. And no walls to not run into, so the less intellectually gifted don’t turn on him again out of some misguided confusion over the object of baseball being to get on base, and not to injure yourself. Imagine Franck Ribery. Revere is just too fast to leave on the bench.
- Support striker: Jimmy Rollins. A good all-around player who could threaten with his pace and pressure the opposing defense with or without the ball. Cazorla-esque. He’d have to give up his no. 11 jersey for no. 10, but I think he’d be okay.
- Center Forward: Von Hayes. Because he can’t be the manager–I don’t want to play in a 5-4-1.
@Moerms (again): “if he is not traded, can we assume the Phillies won’t let Pap finish enough games to kick in his 5th yr option?”
I’ve always had something of an ethical issue with teams that purposely hold back players to keep them from picking up incentive-based bonuses, so if Papelbon isn’t traded and doesn’t finish 100 games in the next two years, I hope it happens organically, and not because Ryne Sandberg‘s been ordered to screw with his bullpen to bail his GM out of an option that never should’ve been given out in the first place.
So I think it’ll happen, barring injury or conscription into the Red Army.
@Gourbot3000: “Are the 2014 Phillies going to break 65 wins?”
Yes. The situation is not that dire yet.
@magelb: “Amaro: “Kendrick has 64 wins. You know how many wins Garza has? 67.” ”
@ByDavidMurphy: “Nevertheless that could be an actual line of dialogue from an upcoming Best-in-Show style mockumentary titled, “Funny Ball.” Or, “Money LOL” “
@Longenhagen: “cast this movie”
I like Murph’s idea of doing this like a Christopher Guest movie. Maybe Colin Wyers will make a poster for this movie out of nowhere too.
Funny Ball (2014) directed by Christopher Guest, written by David Murphy, based on the novel by Ruben Amaro
- Harry Shearer as Marty Harper, general manager of the Cleveland Spiders, an aging baseball team that’s late to adopting analytics.
- Eugene Levy as Leopold Roberts, the addlebrained owner of the Spiders
- John Slattery as Arnold “Turk” Lewandowski, the perpetually stoned, Nietzche-quoting manager.
- John Krazinski and Parker Posey as Nick Simon and Ashley Dawes, the only two front office people who can do anything beyond basic arithmetic. The straight men, as it were.
- Idris Elba as Mark Baker, the aging former league MVP.
- Alex Pettyfer as Shawn Logan, a rookie center fielder constantly being hazed by Lewandowski and Baker
The more I think about this…why hasn’t someone made a baseball front office farce yet? Get on that, Murph.
If RAJ was fired and the city decided Hinkie should run both the Sixers and the Phillies, what would be his first few moves?
@JNisula: “RAJ goes shopping at Mcaffery’s in Yardley (true btw), does he (a) buy overpriced spoiled milk or (b) trade his shoes for food”
There’s a line in Bill Simmons’ basketball book–I forget if it was from Simmons himself or a quote from a reader email, and I don’t have my copy on me to check at the moment–about how former Sixers GM Billy King must go into a restaurant, look at the menu and offer to pay three times the listed price for a mediocre steak. I think that applies to Amaro as well.
I don’t know that he does either of those things, but he absolutely spends a lot of money for horrible beer, which is to say he leaves the store with a six-pack of Heineken.
@Ut26: “What are the chances John Shuster blows Team USA’s chances of qualifying for the Olympics this week?”
I’ve actually got faith in Shuster–he took undue heat in 2010, I think, because he’s kind of putsy-looking. The U.S. women’s curling team did almost as badly in Vancouver as the men, despite having a skip, Debbie McCormick, who’s even more of a national curling fixture than Shuster. But when McCormick missed a shot, she just kind of looked sad. Shuster and his team exuded a beer league aesthetic, which, at some point, is unavoidable in North American curling.
But if you watched the Olympic trials, I don’t know how you can be disappointed Shuster won. Pete Fenson returned three of the four guys from the rink that won bronze in Torino–the only exception being Shuster himself–and Shuster absolutely dominated. Just rolled him up. And Fenson didn’t even make it to the elimination round at nationals, so I’m more inclined to believe Shuster just had the worst week of his life at the last Olympics and that he’s our best hope.
Right now, the USA is in a four-way tie for first in the Olympic qualifiers. They have to finish in the top two to make it to Sochi, and if they don’t, I’m going to be furious.
@MEBirnbaum: “cheer us up – can Roy Halladay meet Max Pentecost while heading off into the sunset?”
Max Pentecost locked his car, zipped up his coat and began the slow trudge down the hill. The freshly-fallen snow crunched beneath his feet and the wind whipped at his face, stinging it with cold and wetness.
It took Pentecost five minutes to get to the bottom of the hill, where he spotted a cabin in a small clearing. Smoke was rising from the chimney and a tall, sturdily built man sat on a stump outside, an axe and a rifle resting against the side of the bungalow. He was drinking from a thermos and staring at a large pile of timber.
Pentecost tried to approach slowly and quietly, but the man heard him. He sat up slightly straighter, and without turning around, spoke. “Max,” he said. “I know that’s you.”
Pentecost smiled. “How?”
“I saw you driving up the hill. I saw you make that adorable attempt at lighting a cigarette with your mittens on. Colorado too cold for you?”
“I’d prefer to be on the beach.”
The taller man laughed as he stood and turned to face Pentecost. He had tousled blond hair and a week’s worth of beard growth, and his face, bright red from the cold and ordinarily a scowling, dour mask, broke into a smile. He extended his hand to shake Pentecost’s. “It’s good to see you. How’d you find me?”
Pentecost shrugged. “I can find anyone. I heard you were getting out of the game. Thought I’d come and say goodbye.”
The man nodded thoughtfully. “Come to talk me out of it?”
“Good. I can’t do it anymore, Max. I thought I’d be able to do this job forever, but it just took so much out of me. It all happened so quickly–I’ve got to get out, go home, tend to my family.”
“You sound resolved.”
“I am.” The man took another sip from his thermos. “How’s Nola?”
“Sends her best. She’s sad to see you go. We all are, Doc–we’ve come to rely on you.”
“I know,” Doc said. “And I’m sorry. But you understand, don’t you?”
“Better than you’d think. We’re all sorry we let you down.”
“Don’t be. I’m leaving on my own terms. Not many people get to do that. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and what’s left undone…well, I’ll live with it. And you’ll fix it, right?”
Doc smiled again and clapped Pentecost on the shoulder. “Good man. I know you will, Max. Take care of yourself, kid.”
Pentecost felt his eyes begin to water. He told itself it was because of the wind. “Yes, sir. I will.”
“The world’s a dangerous place–you know this better than most people. Even with your skills, and Nola watching your back, you have to be careful or you won’t get to retire like I did.”
“Yes, sir.” Pentecost wiped his eyes and nose with a mitten. “I don’t know if we can do this without you, Doc.”
“You can, and you will.”
“And what if we need you? How will I find you?”
“You won’t need me. But I’ll be,” he said archly, “around. Your life is about to get a lot more interesting, Max. Enjoy it.”
“Mine’s only going to get funner.”